By Tina McCarty, OD
A new iPad app from The Vision Care Institute helps ODs to educate patients on the harm that UV exposure poses to their eye health—and it shows them the products that can help to protect their eyes.
CLEAR UP MISCONCEPTIONS. Educate that the sun is most damaging mid-morning and late afternoon, not just around noon.EDUCATE IN EXAM ROOM. Explain how UV exposure contributes to cataracts and macular degeneration and prescribe products to protect eyes.EXPLAIN NEED PROTECT EYES ALL YEAR. Educate that regardless of the season, if the sun is up, the dangers of UV exist and our eyes need to be protected.
In picture: Sunwear displayed in the optical dispensary of Dr. McCarty’s practice, Eye Care Center, in its Maple Grove office.
In our practice, we make it a priority to educate patients about the dangers of UV exposure to their eyes, and then to prescribe and sell them products to protect their eyes. A new free app from The Vision Care Institute, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, makes delivering this education easier. The app, available currently only in the US Apple app store, is made specifically for iPad use, and helps educate patients about UV exposure. There is information on the effects of UV, different factors related to environmental exposure, information on who is most vulnerable, as well as ways that a patient can protect their eyes from UV.
Eye Care CenterFridley, Maplewood and Maple Grove, Minn. Locations: 3ODs: 7Support Staff: 44Annual Exams: 12,141Annual Practice Earnings: $5.3 million in collections
Help Clear Up Misconceptions
Patients often think the most dangerous time to be outside relative to UV exposure is when the sun is highest in the sky, generally between 10 am and 2 pm, or when we are most likely to get a sunburn. The app demonstrates that this is false. The most dangerous time to be outside relative to eyes is when the sun is at about a 45-degree angle (in mid-morning and later afternoon) when the sun is a direct hit to our eyes versus over our head.
Educate How Sunwear and Contact Lenses Protect Eyes
There are some contact lenses available that have UV protection as one of the properties of the lens offering some protection. Further, when selecting sunglasses, it is important to educate patients that the style of the frame and the size of the lens are also important factors in protection against UV exposure. Often with a frame with less coverage, especially in the temples or with a smaller lens, the eyes are exposed to UV rays around the frame/lens and through reflection off of surfaces such as water and snow.
Educate On UV Protection in Exam Room
I always mention the importance of sun protection in the exam room and the different ways to protect against it. The opticians have the app as one of their tools to help illustrate the importance of UV protection, and it helps to aid in proper frame/lens selection and in boosting sunwear sales.
I explain to patients that there are several different impacts to the eye and eye area that can result from UV exposure including damage to the skin and delicate tissue around the eye, the corneal surface, lens with regard to cataract development and the macula with regard to macular degeneration. I tell patients that when thinking about UV protection, you can never start too early, you can never do too much (contact lenses, glasses, hats, sunscreen, shade) and you can never start too late (meaning it’s better late than never).
Emphasize Need to Protect Children’s Eyes
Parents simply don’t understand the importance of sun protection for children. We spend our most time outdoors when we are young. Young people have larger pupils, clearer lenses, and few wear protection. Think about watching your child’s outdoor soccer game…few are wearing protection. This app helps to illustrate who is especially vulnerable.
The Vision Care Institute’s new UV protection app (above). Dr. McCarty advises having patients download it to their iPads to gain a better understanding of the sun’s impact on their eyes. Click HERE or the image above to download the app.
Educate Need to Protect Eyes in Winter
In winter, in my part of the country, Minnesota, we have a lot of snow and get extra reflection from that surface. Further in winter the sun angle is lower, and therefore, a more direct hit to our eyes. Whenever the sun is up, summer, fall, winter or spring, our eyes need to be protected. The app points out the difference in the time of day for maximum exposure in the summer versus the winter, spring and fall.
Publicize Need for UV Protection
I recently did a cable TV interview on UV protection, which has been posted to our Facebook page. It will also soon be featured on our practice web site. We also post timely information on UV protection to our Facebook page and practice web site whenever we can.
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